The Enterprise Centre, at the University of East Anglia (UEA) campus, is an outstanding example of sustainability and low-embodied carbon construction. This was a key requirement of the brief: the client, the Adapt Low Carbon Group, is an organization responsible for promoting and funding low carbon start-up groups and working with local companies to stimulate economic growth and reduce their impact on the environment.
The client, the architectural practice Architype and the construction company Morgan Sindall, the single point deliverer of the project, worked together to achieve a building which is sustainable in every sense; natural, local, low carbon and the first large scale commercial building in the UK to achieve both Passivhaus standard and BREEAM Outstanding rating. It demonstrates how materials, especially timber, can be sourced locally, used in innovative ways and designed to create an alternative aesthetic that strives to be genuinely local, reflects the surrounding vernacular, and embeds the building in its regional context. The Enterprise Centre stands next to the main road at the threshold of the university campus, acting as a gateway to UEA’s Norwich Research Park. In plan the two-storey building is E-shaped, with narrow wings so that natural light and ventilation can penetrate the interior effectively.
The shape forms a three-sided courtyard with its open side facing the road to create an inviting main entrance which is sheltered by a high-level timber canopy. Even here, at first glance, the building’s locally sourced low carbon credentials are clear; Norfolk thatch, recycled timber cladding, glulam columns of local larch and locally sourced flint shingle can be seen. The courtyard leads to a generous entrance foyer and exhibition/gallery space with an original Norman Foster reception desk reclaimed from the nearby Sainsbury Centre. It leads to a single storey 300-seat lecture theatre which extends into the courtyard. Both ground and first floors have generous timberframed corridors leading to a series of flexible workspaces. These include teaching and learning facilities, an innovation lab, business ‘hatcheries’ and incubator units for SMEs and start-ups in the low carbon sector. Academic and business facilities are placed side by side in the same building to foster innovation and stimulate new ways of working.
With such sustainable credentials it is not surprising that the Enterprise Centre is also a working demonstration building, attracting visits by over 150 companies even during construction. It has been a case study at conferences and is now a favourite destination for overseas visitors specialising in sustainable construction.